This month is International Women’s Month, and 8th March is International Women’s Day. Both celebrate the wonderful achievements – from political to social – of women across the globe – while calling for gender equality through the hashtag #BeBoldForChange.
This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange. Just look up the hashtag on twitter to see how many ways this call to arms is being carried out. Flexible working and gender pay equality are one of the ways that change is being pushed forward, creating opportunities for women to continue in the workforce; as they (usually) carry the bulk of caring responsibilities for children and family.
With this in mind, this month’s Inspiring Parents blog is covering two amazing business women who are being VERY bold for change.
You can call it the “tale of two Sarahs”. Sarah Broad runs Attune Jobs, a job site specialising in part-time and flexible jobs for the business support services for the professional services and law firms. Sarah Moore established Flexible Minds to bring a new and flexible approach to recruitment in the West Midlands.
Like many parents, their search for flexible work after becoming Mothers was the catalyst for their launching their businesses:
Sarah Broad (SB) I have spent 20 years in the corporate world specialising in HR / Recruitment and Change management, predominately within the Finance industry, with 10 of those years coaching; I am experienced in planning and delivering to realistic objectives. After maternity leave I needed to put all those skills I had learnt into practice. After talking with a past colleague (this is where keeping up with your network is advantageous) we thought there was an opportunity to offer part-time and flexible working jobs. There is a wealth of talent out there who want flexible working, but are unlikely to apply for the role unless they know this is an option. Whilst it is prevalent for women, it is becoming much more common with men.
I was offered an opportunity to set up Attune Jobs which offers part-time and flexible working jobs nationally. It was an opportunity I could not turn down; running a business, work the hours needed (this does sometimes go into evenings and weekends) and still have time for my children, all of which is very important to me.
Sarah Moore (SM) I graduated from the University of Birmingham with a BSc in Psychology and began my sales career working for Countrywide, the UK’s largest and most successful estate agency and property services. In 2002 I joined the recruitment company Badenoch & Clark specialising in finance and accountancy recruitment into the public sector in the West Midlands. Throughout my career I held various sales and operational management roles working within the recruitment industry, property industry and prior to setting up Flexible Minds I was the Chief Executive for the charity Relate in Worcestershire; an organisation I joined whilst studying my MSc in Occupational Psychology.
When I became a mum in 2008, I asked my bosses if I could go to part time hours which, luckily, they agreed to. After returning from my 2nd maternity leave my aspirations (and logistics!) had changed. Working with national sales agents for a Turkish Property Developer required a fair amount of travel to be successful; it wasn’t conducive to getting back to nursery for a 6pm collection last of few lonely souls in a quiet nursery getting ready to close.
Like many parents in a similar position, Sarah Moore decided to retrain; which she managed to balance with working part-time.
I decided it was time to try something new and started to look around for a new part time position. I was very disheartened; I really struggled to find anything that was commensurate with my existing responsibilities or experiences or salary. After a few months soul searching, I decided that a whole new career direction was needed, I thought I am going to have to start again in a new profession and revisited my original qualifications. I decided to return to university, part time and embarked on an MSc in Occupational Psychology, which is the study of human behaviour at work with the intention to increase the effectiveness of organisations and how they work with individuals. Aspects of which I had really enjoyed in my role as a manager or in sales and hoped that it might open the door to a more flexible career without having to start totally again.
At the same time, as lucky coincidence would have it, I got a job with the charity Relate as their business development and training manager; a role that required some salary sacrifice but the new opportunity, new sector and crucially, only local travel made it totally worth it. I continued working and part time and studying part time (whilst being a Mum to 2 growing and lively boys – looking back I have no idea how I did it!) and whilst at Relate the opportunity to take on the role of Chief Executive was offered to me, which I gratefully accepted, really enjoyed and hopefully made a difference in.
Fast forward to now; what skills are you using from your previous lives in your businesses?
SB: I use all my skills, it is like you bring everything together. In particular strategy, finance, project management, time management. As a growing business, I have to be able to do everything from writing the strategy to doing the post and there are a lot of things I can’t do – technical skills is not my strength. So sometimes I hire someone to help me or I take a deep breath and learn it through places like YouTube or Webinars.
SM:All of them! My ex-colleagues in recruitment have been very benevolent and helped me refresh my “hands on” recruiting skills and been a voracious sounding board for my business strategy. Qualifying as a Business Psychologist gave me the knowledge and confidence to try something different. Then the other competencies of organisation, IT skills, resource management, communication, determination and ambition have all been honed along the way and definitely influenced (and hopefully enhanced!) by being a parent.
What has been the biggest challenge moving from employee to entrepreneur?
SB:There are many! Self-doubt – will I be able to do this? Confidence – will I be able to do this? Working largely on my ‘own’ means I never have anyone saying I am doing a good job. I have nothing to benchmark it against (which I did when I was working for a company). As a business I do not know how I am doing – it is hard to benchmark usefully against competitors because they have been going for years and everyone is slightly different. I am not sure I have overcome this fully – but I am very resilient and I have good friends around me who sometimes need to remind me what is important in life and obviously tell me that of course, I can do it!
SM:The amount of decisions you have to make!! Being a Libra, I like to see the balance in any situation and like to fully consider the pros and cons. Up to now I’ve always had colleagues or bosses around me to share my thought processes with and help make an informed decision – suddenly I was on my own and there seemed so much to decide – even choosing a company name seemed a never-ending task; there are officially no company names left on twitter or the web!! As time has gone on the need to make decisions hasn’t been quite so intense. I’ve also grown in confidence so have felt more in control of the direction that I’ve wanted to take the business.
What has surprised you about your new business world?
SB: Social media is not the quick fix that I was led to believe.
SM: How receptive people have been to the idea. Most people I speak to really get it; they can see the benefit to the employer and the employee and have identified that the approach I am taking is unique. I went to one event and I mentioned what I did during the course of the proceedings and at the end actually had people queuing up to have a chat and take a business card – I don’t think that has ever happened to a recruitment consultant before!!
What advice would you give someone in the same position?
SB: You just have to go for it and take a leap of faith. It is scary and you do not know if it will work. There will be many challenges and you will have to be self-motivated, resilient and keep going even when the going gets tough and even when you feel you are making no headway. You will then get glimmers of success / good news / good results which keeps you going for that little bit longer. You will then have to remember why you are doing this and that keeps you going too.
SM: If you’re thinking about setting up your own business, seek out the help out there (lots of supportive advice and free to access schemes and training), take a deep breath, cross your fingers behind your back and go for it!
How will you be #BeBoldForChange this year? Join my Facebook Group “The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox” and share your pledge.